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Cracking the Top 10: Wide Receivers

NFL: Chicago Bears at Dallas CowboysAs the NFL transitioned in the 2000’s to the made-for-tv passing attacks that led to high flying offenses around the league, it became clear that wide receivers are the new “must haves” in the early rounds of fantasy drafts. Consistency is the key, and with so many targets to go around, it’s unlikely that stud wide outs fall from grace unless injuries to themselves or their quarterbacks derail their season.

Still, the NFL is an ever changing landscape and the wide receiver pool features new names every year. Who can you count on to make the leap into the top 10?

Least Risk: Dez Bryant, WR – DAL

If you want an in depth look into Dez Bryant and his prospects this year, check out this fantastic article at FantasyPros.com, the data is pretty clear; Bryant isn’t done. A combination of injuries, ineffective play, and the emergence of Ezekiel Elliott as the catalyst for the Dallas offence led Bryan to finish as the WR 29, far below the expectations levied on him in the preseason.  He’s still being selected as early as the end of the 2nd round, but the truth is that as his rapport with Prescott improved, Bryant quietly returned to his effective self, setting up a likely return to the top 10 of WR’s and the potential to push into the top 5.

A Little Risk: Tyreek Hill, WR – KC

Hill has gone from a sleeper pick to rocketing up draft boards following the release of WR Jeremy Maclin. As of the writing of this article, his ADP is in the 6th round but climbing. He presents a difficult assesment because the young receiver has never been tested as his teams #1 so regression is a potential concern as defenses cue up on him much more. Still, aside from Kelce, Hill offers strong upside as one of the most likely targets between the 20’s. Despite the unknowns, his ability and Kansas City’s committment to him as their guy should propel him up the standings by the time the season ends.

Most Risk: DeSean Jackson, WR – TB

While you may think Jackson in the top 10 is a stretch, remember that he’s sliding into the number two spot on Tampa’s Targets list and he’s protected from defenses thanks to the otherworldly ability of Mike Evans. With Jackson’s ability to stretch the field and get behind defenders firmly in tact (Jackson’s 17.9 YPC led all receivers with more than 25 receptions) expect Winston to look his way early and often and a career year could be in the cards for the crafty veteran.

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Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas Both Sign

After the fantasy world collectively held it’s breath awaiting word on the extensions for Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant (both were recent hold outs), we can all breath a sigh of relief since both players signed 5 year $70 million dollar contract extensions.

However unlikely it was that either or both players were going to hold out for actual NFL games, we can now stop pondering how Terrance Williams would do in the absence of Bryant, and get back to drafting both of these guys in the first two rounds with confidence.

Offensive Snaps: A valuable stat?

(Baltimore 365 ) Owings Mills, MD -- 05/30/2012 -- Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith hauls in a pass during the second team OTA at the Ravens training facility Wednesday, May 30, 2012. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) [FBN RAVENS OTA (_1D32323.JPG)] ORG XMIT: BAL1205301627204600

(Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) 

As with any offensive statistic that falls under the Team instead of an individual player, these must be taken with a large grain of salt. The NFL is a pretty fluid league, and contributors both on and off the field change so regularly, to expect numbers to be consistent year over year could be disasterous. Still, it can be valuable to at least look at a teams ability to create plays when attempting to value players who’s numbers may be more relient on the situation than their skills.

Below is a list of the top 10 teams in terms of total offensive plays in 2014.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (1,127 plays)
  2. Indianapolis Colts (1,105)
  3. New Orleans Saints (1,095)
  4. New York Giants (1,086)
  5. New England Patriots (1,073)
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (1,068)
  7. Denver Broncos (1,067)
  8. Houston Texans (1,062)
  9. Carolina Panthers (1,060)
  10. New York Jets (1,052)

What’s important to understand is that this merely a baseline to understand how often a team puts its offensive players in position to score fantasy points. The uptempo offenses in Philly and Indianapolis enabled them to run 70.4 and 69.1 plays per game; this means players who line up in large percentage of their teams offensive snaps have a greater ability to procure fantasy points. This would seem rather obvious, but is important to note nontheless. Below is a list of the top 10 players ranked by participation percentage (using snap count statistics gathered at Sportingcharts.com)

  1. Torrey Smith* (1,098 total snaps, 96.7% of team snaps)
  2. Jordy Nelson (1,083, 96.5%)
  3. Dez Bryant (935, 93.7%)
  4. Vincent Jackson (969, 93.5%)
  5. Brandon Marshall* (988, 93.4%)
  6. A.J. Green (1,056, 93.3%)
  7. Mike Wallace* (951, 92.6%)
  8. Larry Fitzgerald (998, 92.1%)
  9. Demaryius Thomas (1,106, 91.6%)
  10. Alshon Jeffery (963, 91.0%)

*players have changed teams

What can be gained from these statistics? Well for starters, you can infer based on usage that a player like Kevin White in Chicago is in for a large number of snaps as Brandon Marshall vacates the roster. The same for Kenny Stills in Miami as  the new top target for Ryan Tannehill in place of Mike Wallace. It certainly appears that Chicago uses their two top targets an awful lot, running them out for more than 90% of their snaps on offense. You could also argue that Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald are both heavy target receivers with a better QB outlook this year, and if the numbers are consistent could be in for a bump in usage.

A few surprises on this list would be players who were used far less than surface stats indicated in 2014.

TY Hilton only saw usage on 71% of Indianapolis’ offensive snaps. A number that if rising could mean enormous stats for the possession beast. Doug Baldwin as the top target in Seattle only saw 74% of the snaps, proving again that Seattle doesn’t trust its passing game, this is likely an indication of Baldwins value in the future. Houston, one of the leagues leaders in terms of total offensive snaps, had both the departed Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins in the 88% range, this could mean a huge uptick in Hopkins usage considering the lack of weapons behind him.

Like anything, it’s important to view these kinds of statistics as secondary, I’m not suggesting that Vincent Jackson should be ranked even close to Antonio Brown (4% less usage), but it’s fair to say that he’ll have far more opportunity then someone like Michael Floyd in Arizona who sees the field less than 85% of their offensive snaps.

Dez Holds Out: Impact on Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) steps past Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (30) on his way to a touchdown after a pass reception in the fourth quarter during the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Detroit Lions NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, October 27, 2013.  (Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News)

 (Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News)

As Dez Bryant continues to hold out in an attempt to force Jerry Jones’ hand on contract talks, Terrance Williams has assumed the role of the #1 WR in the offense in minicamps. Although Bryant is unlikely to hold out for actual NFL games, williams has acquitted himself quite well, and will likely see an improvement on the numbers from last year.

Williams possesses the ability to be a difference maker down field, as was evidenced by his 7 TD’s on 37 total catches. If this time with the number ones improves his on the field relationship with Tony Romo, expect a much better finish than previously expected out of him.

Updated: WR Rankings

Updated 6/23

  1. Antonio Brown – PIT
  2. Demaryius Thomas – DEN
  3. Dez Bryant – DAL
  4. Odel Beckham Jr. – NYG
  5. Julio Jones – ATL
  6. Calvin Johnson – DET
  7. Jordy Nelson – GB
  8. AJ Green – CIN
  9. Randall Cobb – GB
  10. TY Hilton – IND
  11. Mike Evans – TB
  12. DeAndre Hopkins – HOU
  13. Emmanuel Sanders – DEN
  14. Alshon Jeffery – CHI
  15. Kelvin Benjamin – CAR
  16. Jordan Matthews – PHI
  17. Julian Edelman – NE
  18. Keenan Allen – SD
  19. Brandin Cooks – NO
  20. Sammy Watkins – BUF
  21. Amari Cooper – OAK
  22. DeSean Jackson – WAS
  23. Golden Tate – DET
  24. Brandon Marshall – NYJ
  25. Roddy White – ATL
  26. Martavis Bryant – PIT
  27. Allen Robinson – JAC
  28. Kevin White – CHI
  29. Andre Johnson – IND
  30. Mike Wallace – MIN
  31. Torrey Smith – SF
  32. Brandon LaFell – NE
  33. Eric Decker – NYJ
  34. Vincent Jackson – TB
  35. Jeremy Maclin – KC
  36. Michael Floyd – ARI
  37. Jarvis Landry – MIA
  38. Anquan Boldin – SF
  39. John Brown – ARI
  40. Nelson Agholor – Phi
  41. Marques Colston – NO
  42. Victor Cruz – NYG
  43. Charles Johnson – MIN
  44. Larry Fitzgerald – ARI
  45. Steve Smith – BAL
  46. Breshard Perriman – BAL
  47. Kendall Wright – TEN
  48. Kenny Stills – MIA
  49. Pierre Garcon – WAS
  50. Davante Adams – GB
  51. Terrance Williams – DAL
  52. Rueben Randle – NYG
  53. Brian Quick – STL
  54. Malcom Floyd – SD
  55. Marvin Jones – CIN
  56. Doug Baldwin – SEA
  57. Dwayne Bowe – CLE
  58. DeVante Parker – MIA
  59. Percy Harvin – BUF
  60. Cody Latimer – DEN
  61. Marqise Lee – JAC
  62. Dorial Green-Beckham – TEN
  63. Stevie Johnson – SF
  64. Kenny Britt – STL
  65. Justin Hunter – TEN
  66. Cole Beasley – Dal
  67. Cecil Shorts – HOU
  68. Devin Funchess – CAR
  69. Michael Crabtree – OAK
  70. Phillip Dorsett – IND
  71. Jaelen Strong – HOU
  72. Donte Moncrief – IND
  73. Andrew Hawkins – CLE
  74. Cordarelle Patterson – MIN
  75. Greg Jennings – MIA
  76. Nick Toon – NO
  77. Devin Smith – NYJ
  78. Tyler Lockett – SEA
  79. Sammie Coates – PIT
  80. Stedman Bailey – STL

3 Up

Dwayne Bowe – CLE – Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting Bowe is going to be a world beater or find himself in the top 20 WRs, but based on his tumbling value, I’d argue he’s poised to far out perform his expectation. 75 receptions, 900 yards and 4 TD’s would be a solid 3rd WR line, and in PPR leagues if his value jumps a bit being the best target on nearly ever down for the Browns.

Cole Beasley – DAL – The NFL slot reciever has found itself at the heart of the PPR world as small recieivers can have value in high volume offenses. Although Beasley may have been outperformed by fellow WR Terrance Williams last year, I see a spike in targets with DeMarco Murray out of the picture. Ranked as the 78th best WR by ESPN, I expect him to out perform a slew of receivers taken ahead of him.

Roddy White – ATL – With Julio Jones in the offense it’s easy to forget that White finished 18th in receptions in 14 games and should likely show less signs of slowing down than other recievers his age. While others value him lower and lower, I feel that White’s consistency and familiarity with QB Matt Ryan should keep him around 70-80 receptions and a healthy 6-8 TDs. Plenty good for a top 25 finish among WRs.

3 Down

Cody Latimer – DEN  – If you believe that the Bronco’s are planning on bringing a more balanced attack to the Mile High city with the increased use of the run game, then you should be nervous about drafting Cody Latimer. Despite his skill set, he’s still at best the fourth option on offense behind Thomas, Sanders, and Anderson. He only had 29 catches last year meaning we’re opperating on assumptions and despite my expectations for him to receive more work, he won’t get nearly enough to justify picking him at the 45-50 range for WR’s.

Donte Moncrief – IND – A fine reciever, Moncrief was already buried deep on the Colt’s depth chart, and they’re willingness to get Dorsett in the 2015 draft shows that they either don’t have faith in him or that they plan on spreading the ball around even more. I’d expect Moncrief to be drafted well ahead of his actual value, and caution that he may be the 4th reciever as early as week one for this offense.

Dorial Green-Beckham – TEN – Already dealing with a minor injury, Green-Beckham has generated a ton of buzz due to his extreme athletic abillity and comparissons to another mercurial WR in Randy Moss. Pump the breaks if you will considering he’s a rookie coming into a disfunctional offense with a rookie QB at the helm. In keeper or dynasty leagues he’s worth a stash but reaching early banking on his upside will burn your team for weeks while we wait for him to blossom.

WAAAY TOO EARLY RANKINGS: WR

  1.  Demaryius Thomas
  2. Antonio Brown
  3. Dez Bryant
  4. Julio Jones
  5. Calvin Johnson
  6. Jordy Nelson
  7. TY Hilton
  8. Odell Beckham
  9. AJ Green
  10. Randall Cobb
  11. Emmanuel Sanders
  12. Mike Evans
  13. DeAndre Hopkins
  14. Alshon Jeffrey
  15. Kelvin Benjamin
  16. Jordan Matthews
  17. Sammy Watkins
  18. Brandon Cooks
  19. DeSean Jackson
  20. Keenan Allen
  21. Julian Edelman
  22. Jeremy Maclin
  23. Andre Johnson
  24. Brandon Marshall
  25. Roddy White
  26. Golden Tate
  27. Amari Cooper
  28. Larry Fitzgerald
  29. Kevin White
  30. Torrey Smith
  31. Mike Wallace
  32. Jarvis Landry
  33. Steve Smith Sr.
  34. Brandon LaFell
  35. Michael Floyd
  36. Eric Decker
  37. Martavis Bryant
  38. Nelson Agholor
  39. DeVante Parker
  40. Kendall Wright
  41. Marques Colston
  42. Vincent Jackson
  43. Malcom Floyd
  44. Allen Robinson
  45. Charles Johnson
  46. Dwayne Bowe
  47. Victor Cruz
  48. Anquan Boldin
  49. Pierre Garcon
  50. John Brown
  51. Terrence Williams
  52. Rueben Randle
  53. Doug Baldwin
  54. Kenny Stills
  55. Percy Harvin
  56. Greg Jennings
  57. Breshard Perriman
  58. Michael Crabtree
  59. Dorial Green-Beckham
  60. Marvin Jones
  61. Kenny Britt
  62. Brian Quick
  63. Marquise Lee
  64. Jaelen Strong
  65. Briant Hartline
  66. Cecil Shorts
  67. Donte Moncrief
  68. Mohammed Sanu
  69. Jarius Wright
  70. Riley Cooper
  71. Markus Wheaton
  72. Cody Latimer
  73. Stevie Johnson
  74. Justin Hunter
  75. Cordarelle Patterson

Fantasy Team Rankings 12-1

luck12. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill quietly put together a borderline top 10 QB season, and Lamar Miller proved he could run the football with some consistency and catch it on occasion in the passing game.  The receivers on this team are young and talented, with high volume option in Jarvis Landry and burners in Kenny Stills and Rishard Matthews. Adding Jordan Cameron only makes it harder for defenses to match up when they want to spread you out. Worth Drafting: Ryan Tannehill will likely be valued lower than he should be, as a later QB1 he’s worth it. Lamar Miller may have some competition later in the year from the uber talented Jay Ajayi, expect him to be a workhorse if healthy. Landry should be a good bet for 70+ catches, and Stills could be a weapon for Tannehill over the top. Jordan Cameron, if healthy, will step in and replace Charles Clay’s production very well.

11. San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers manages every year to put together a top 10 QB season, and expect this year to be no different. Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd should still see the bulk of the passes, new addition Stevie Johnson has a lot to prove and could be a nice late round WR addition. Despite Ledarius Green’s presence, Antonio Gates went out and killed it last year, and I’ll never again doubt the big mans ability or drive. Worth Drafting: Philip Rivers as always falls just shy of the NFL elite, but is a solid QB if you miss out on the top teir guys. Keenan Allen has the tools to be a WR1 and Michael Floyd will still stretch the field a bit (16.5 YPC last year). Stevie Johnson is a risk/reward player as his pedigree may trick owners into jumping early. Antonio Gates should be himself again this year, and I would caution against Ladarius Green fans against expecting any real fantasy value unless Gates gets hurt. Melvin Gordon could be this years highest scoring rookie… don’t be afraid to draft.

10.  Chicago Bears

I know what you’re thinking, “the Bears in the top 10?” They may not be a top 10 NFL team, but we’re talking in terms of fantasy contributions. Jay Cutler may be inconsistent, as is evidenced by his second half slide, but he still has plenty of tools and a big arm. Alshon Jeffery will have an uptick in attempts as Cutler has shown a propensity to seak out his top target despite double teams. Matt Forte is a top 10 RB and top 3 in PPR formats, and Martellus Bennet moves into the top 3 conversation at TE thanks to Jimmy Grahams change of scenery. Worth Drafting: I was high on Jay Cutler last year, and this hasn’t changed. If you look at his first 5 or 6 weeks last year, he had some pretty good numbers that would have been even better if he didn’t turn the ball over. Kevin White is an unknown quantity but he should replace Marshall in the long run with the same kind of build. Jeffry should be a top 10WR and Bennett is a top 3 TE.

9. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan did the best he could with the rash of injuries that clipped the Falcons wings last year, but a healthy squad will make a world of difference. Ryan is a top 10 QB even without his top two targets healthy. Tevin Coleman could push Devonta Freeman but both are talented and whoever makes it out of camp as the #1 should see above average RB numbers. Roddy White is still an every week start even with the top 3 WR in Julio Jones across from him. They have question marks at TE as Toilolo Levine led their active TE’s with 62 points last year (in 1pt PPR). Worth Drafting: Matt Ryan had a few brutal weeks and still managed a top 10 finish, he’ll have a better grasp on this offense and health not withstanding should be a top 10 QB this year as well. Julio Jones has the talent to finish #1, and he’ll likely go in the first 15 picks. Roddy White gets over looked more every year but he’s still a top 20 WR. The real question is Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman? I think it’ll be a battle in camp, and both guys should have some fantasy relevance come week 1.

8. New York Giants

The world was against the Giants after a brutal season prior, but Eli Manning still finished top 10 at QB, and Odell Beckham emerged as a top WR threat. With the return of Victor Cruz this offense could have two scary weapons for Eli to use. Rashad Jennings may be a little older than the other top RB’s, but he still averaged 10-11 points per week (depending on your scoring system). Larry Donnell put together an admirable season and the Giants like to use TE’s in the passing game. Worth Drafting: Eli is a safe bet to out perform his numbers last year if he has a healthy WR corps. Beckham will likely be drafted incredibly early, but with Cruz back, he’ll be hard pressed to repeat his second half numbers. Rueben Randle is the real steal here, as his value takes a huge hit with two studs in front of him, but in a passing offense, he should out perform his ADP. Rashad Jennings was fine when he played, but grab Andre Williams late as a handcuff if you need to use Jennings as a RB 1 or 2.

7. Detroit Lions

I hate to say that Matthew Stafford is overrated, because I think he’s an entertaining gun slinger in the Brett Favre mold, but his terrible efficiency actually lowers his ceiling despite as often as he throws the football. That being said, he has two elite WR’s in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Either one can carry the torch if the other isn’t performing. At TE, they have two question marks: is Brandon Pettigrew capable of being used in the passing game and can Eric Ebron be healthy enough to contribute. I think Ebron is the TE the Lions would rather emerge. Joique Bell got a lot of touches last year, but averaged under 4 YPC. His value lies in the passing game, but the Lions served notice in drafting what they think is a 3 down back in Ameer Abdullah. A great talent, he should push Bell for touches early and often. Worth Drafting: Matt Stafford at the right price has enough volume to contribute but he’ll drive you crazy. Calvin Johnson slipping down the ranks only helps the owner who gets him, he’s still the best in the game in my opinion. Golden Tate is a solid second option, and a good one two punch in Bell and Abdullah in the backfield make this a formidable offense. Ebron is the TE to look at with a much higher ceiling.

6. Seattle Seahawks

The beautiful thing about this offense is that it’s predictable and consistent. Russell Wilson will beat you through the air or on the ground, and his ability to run at the right time means he’ll get you a ton of points that other QB’s won’t. Marshawn Lynch is a workhorse unlike any in the league. He’ll touch the ball with greater consistency and efficiency than anyone else. The homeruns aren’t always there, but 4-5YPC and double digit touchdowns make him my #1 back. Doug Baldwin has proven to be a solid #1 for a team that doesn’t throw it that much, his value will reflect that. Beyond him, Jimmy Graham should give Wilson a redzone threat, but no one else is more than a flier. Worth Drafting: This team features three top 5 position options. Russell Wilson ran for 850 yards last year… he’s in my top 3 for QBs. Marshawn Lynch may not have as many 30+ point weeks as a Le’Veon Bell, but his unparralleled consistency (12 weeks above RB average) make him my #1, and Jimmy Graham will likely be the #1 option inside the 20 plus just a tick behind Baldwin elsewhere. Draft all three confidently. Doug Baldwin is a safe WR if he’s available after the top options are off the board.

5.  Dallas Cowboys

My value of the Dallas Cowboys is contingent on the offensive line. Darren McFadden’s ability hasn’t been his big question, it’s been his health. If he can stay on the field he’ll benifit greatly from the O-Line that helped DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing last year. Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have a special connection, allowing both to creep towards the top 5 in their catagories. Cole Beasley should be a good value pick in PPR leagues, and Jason Witten is ageless and productive. Worth Drafting: At their relative ADP’s I’d say nearly all of the offensive weapons are worth a look. Bryant, Romo and McFadden all three will be drafted in the first 4 or 5 rounds. Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley all have a good chance to produce weekly for this team as well.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Who knew Le’Veon Bell would bounce back from a tough rookie year to lead the league in fantasy scoring? We knew he’d be good, but it gave the offense the freedom to throw different looks at the defense. They were rewarded with a career year by Roethlisburger and the emergency of Antonio Brown as a top WR office. Marcus Wheaton will put up solid WR fantasy stats as well, and Heath Miller, although no longer Elite, still has some gas in the tank. Worth Drafting: Ben Roethlisberger may not finish with the totals he had last year, but he’s a good bet to finish at or near a top 5 QB. Le’Veon Bell is going to miss a few games to start the year, but it’s clear he’s the focal point of that offense and he’s young enough to eat up 300+ touches and is a beast in PPR. Antonio Brown is the Marshawn Lynch of the receiving game. Quietly posting 300 or so points in PPR leagues and nearly 15-20 points every week. Bell and Brown are likely first or 2nd round picks. Don’t sleep on Miller either as there is really only 5 or  6 elite TE’s on the board, and after you’re looking at either consistency (miller) or home run weeks.

3. Denver Broncos

This wouldn’t change if Peyton Manning was 50 years old, and that’s because they finally found their RB to compliment their lethal passing game. Peyton is a general, and will use his elite weapons liberaly, and will make mediocre talents look even better. Julius Thomas is gone but anyone that can run routes will look solid in this offense. CJ Anderson as a 3 down back compliments Manning in ways Montee Ball never could, averaging 180+ points in PPR formats over the final 7 weeks (on par with Le’Veon Bell). Worth Drafting: Manning may be falling behind his contemporaries a bit but should still finish in the top 5. Demaryius Thomas looks to be a top 2 WR with Emmanuel Sanders not far behind. CJ Anderson is a bit of an unknown quantity but even if he’s only a quarter of the back he was over the last 7 weeks, he’ll be a top 10 back. Not sure about Virgil Green, but I think we said the same thing about Julius Thomas a few years ago, and Manning turned him into a top option.

2. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy… do I need to say more?  A high powered offense with consistency and familiarity unlike any squad in the league, they could break records if the schedule shakes out for them. They play through the air, and on the ground, but they give everyone their due which is rare for a team with as many options. Worth Drafting: Aaron Rodgers may have been supplanted by Andrew Luck, but he hasn’t fallen far. All four of the players above will be gone in the first 3 or so rounds, which is scary for opposing defenses. Andrew Quarless is the other player to target, but they’ve never been a heavy TE use team.

1. Indianapolis Colts

AFC Championship withstanding, this is the most outstanding offense in football. A team that is often in shootouts, Indy has a quarterback to compete with them all. Adding Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, and Phillip Dorsett through the draft makes this offense even better than last year. Luck could (and I’d argue should) crest 5k yards and 50 TD’s, contributing to TY Hilton’s continued emergence as a 2nd round WR. Frank Gore has proven he can play forever, and in this Indy offense should contribute on the ground and in the air, and Andre Johnson may have lost a step but as a route runner, the dangerously accurate Luck should have no problem finding him in the soft spots of the defense. Worth Drafting: Andrew Luck will finish the year as the highest scoring player in football, draft him in the first round if you want him, he’s that good. TY Hilton and Andre Johnson should both have 70-80 Receptions with 1100 plus yards, although I expect Johnson to be the bigger red zone threat and higher ADP. Frank Gore may not be a top 5 or even top 10 RB, but expect some huge weeks from the old dog as he will be highighted in the passing game. Even Dwayne Allen, for all his deficiencies, should finish inside the top 10 of the TE ranks.

If you have a problem with any of these rankings, I say good, because debating and conversation is the best way to explain why we feel the way we feel. Tell me where I’m wrong, and who is your Fantasy Elite?

The First Round Conundrum

leveonAs a veteran Fantasy enthusiasts, I’ve seen several anti-RB draft stratagies sprout and die with a wimper. This years “zeroRB” philosaphy takes the cake in lack of common sense. If your arguement is that running back is a shallow and unpredictable position, that should only strengthen your resolve to grab a RB early and often.

Lets compare ADP data from 2014 for the top 5 picks at QB, RB, and TE.

Quarterbacks

  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Drew Brees
  4. Matthew Stafford
  5. Andrew Luck

Wide Recievers

  1. Calvin Johnson
  2. Demaryius Thomas
  3. Dez Bryant
  4. AJ Green
  5. Julio Jones

Runningbacks

  1. LeSean McCoy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Eddie Lacy
  5. Montee Ball
  6. Marshawn Lynch*

I included Marshawn Lynch because most people were aware of Adrian Peterson’s legal woes and we can’t infer from the single game played his return value.

Examining the statistics:

Of the top 5 QB’s drafted, 4 of them finished in the top 5 at the seasons end. On the surface this seems like a predictable position, but looking at the consistency of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning show that down the stretch neither lived up to the billing. Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson outperformed all 5 of the names above in playoff weeks.

Of the top 5 WR’s drafted, 2 of the 5 finished at in the top 5 of their position. If you’re playing in a PPR league, the middle of the pack begins to compress and you’re looking at 25 WR’s that all finished around 200 points total. Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, and Emmanuel Sanders, the other names in the top 5 could all have been had in the 3nd round. A larger number of the top 20 WR’s were late round or undrafted players, showing that the flux is greatest here.

Of the top 5 RB’s not named Adrian Peterson drafted, 3 finished in the RB top 5 (Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, and Eddy Lacy). Beyond DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster, there was difficulty predicting the RB’s 10-20.

Now if you’re argument is that the inconsistency for RB’s like Montee ball and Gio Bernard are your reasons for going with a zero RB stratagy, more power to you. This just means your RB’s come the 4th or 5th round end up looking like CJ Spiller and Ben Tate. I’d argue I’d rather have an underwhelming 9th over all pick in Arian Foster paired with a Julio Jones or Randall Cobb than Dez Bryant and Ben Tate or Bishop Sankey circa 2014

.

Just sayin’…

Would you Rather? April 23

Would you rather is a weekly Fantasy Football article that will run up until Week 1 of the 2015 NFL Regular Season where we look at Pro’s and Con’s involved with Draft Day decisions.

The ghost of DeMarco Murray looms large as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for life without him. Not only was Murray’s impact out of the backfield, his ability to catch passes made him an elite offensive weapon, and the 57 catches on 64 targets will have to be filtered elsewhere. Therein lies the problem: Who after Dez Bryant should I target in drafts?

There’s two obvious choices: WR’s Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. There’s obvious differences between the two players as well; Williams is a much larger target and has more endzone punch due to his size. His *140 fantasy points ranks XX but he seemed to fade a bit down the stretch as the Cowboys relied mostly upon Dez Bryant and Jason Witten outside the numbers.

Beasley is a diminutive WR, more in the Wes Welker slot receiver mold. Rarely used in the first half of the season (below average fantasy impact between week 2 and 12 according to Rotoworld statistics) he came on strong as the season finished putting up 58 of his 86 points* from week 12-16.

As always, understanding your league format will be tantamount to a solid draft. If you’re drafting in a PPR league Beasley becomes a much more attractive player at his current ADP, if not (and you believe that Williams can provide the same scoring punch as last year) then Williams would be your guy.

I owned Williams in leagues last year and can say his lack of consistency was frustrating. His upside has to be tempered with the fact that he does not have breakway speed and he’s often times the third or fourth redzone target after Bryant, Witten, and whoever laces up in the backfield.

Beasley is intriguing at his current ADP and especially in PPR leagues. With as high powered and offense as Dallas has, and with as often as Romo will throw it, my guess is a lot of those short passes to Murray will go Beasley’s way in the slot. With the success that teams like Pittsburgh, New England and Denver have had with diminuitive slot guys, it’s a safe bet that Beasley will outperform his ADP (assuming he’s healthy). I have serious doubts that Williams will.

Tell us what you think in the comments below to provide your own feedback on the matter.

*fantasy points calculated for PPR league 1pt/rec